There have been rumors floating around about a possible extension for Manu Ginobili. According to Argentine reporter Julian Mozo, and echoed by Dan McCarney, the Spurs are exploring the possibility of locking Manu up before he hits free agency next summer. While Manu has, like Tim before him, likely conceded a lot of negotiation power by saying that there's a 95% chance he'll be with the Spurs next season, signing one of your key guys can help build a strong foundation and show the rest of the players and the league in general that the organization values and rewards loyalty.
Stephen Jackson, in time, responded to a question about his past demands for an extension with the Bobcats and the Bucks by saying he wants one and thinks he deserves it but knows he can't control that. It's a far cry from calling an extension "mandatory" like Jack has in the past, but it's clear Jackson really wants the security it would provide.
Unfortunately for both guys, it won't happen. Here are three reasons why:
The CBA limits the amount the Spurs can offer
According to Larry Coon's CBA FAQ, extensions after rookie scale deals have a maximum raise or decrease of 7.5%, based on the player's last contract. Simply put, the Spurs cannot extend Jackson or Ginobili to any figure they desire; the CBA does not allow that. As good as Manu is and as well as Jack has adjusted to his new role, the Spurs would very likely be reluctant to pay them basically the same salary going forward. With a 7.5% decrease, Manu would make $13 million and Jackson $9.2 million.
A case could be made using per minute stats to suggest that Ginobili is still an elite player, which would make that money somewhat suitable for a contributor of his caliber. Unfortunately, and no fault of his own, Ginobili cannot sustain his amazing production consistently playing heavy minutes. Injuries have limited the amount of games he has played in over the years and injury concerns have led Gregg Popovich to limit the minutes he plays during the game he suits up for. When you add the fact that Tim Duncan, the face of the franchise, waited until his contract was up and then re-signed for arguably less than his market value, it is hard to see the Spurs committing that kind of money to Manu.
Jackson's case is more straight-forward: there is no way anyone can justify paying him that kind of money. Jack has done a great job in his role with the Spurs. Throughout his career he has been a key piece on several teams, some good and some not so much, but Jackson is not a $9 million a year player. Considering his latest extension was thought of as a bit of a head-scratcher at the time, even though Stephen was younger and playing a much bigger role for the Warriors, it's impossible to think of a reason why he would get that kind of money again. On top of that, Jackson has found a niche as a back-up wing that brings versatility and defensive intensity off the bench, and those role players get paid less than first or second offensive options. It is entirely possible that Jackson is not aware of the restriction the CBA places on an extension offer; players have agents for a reason. He could simply want job security on a winning team, after spending years playing for mediocre squads and being traded multiple times. That being said, Stephen needs to discuss this with his people. If he genuinely believes that any team, much less the cost-conscious Spurs, that will pay him over $9 million a year, Jackson will be seriously disappointed.
It is a buyer's market
Jackson's, and in a smaller way Ginobili's, situation is a good reminder of what the new CBA has accomplished: veteran players need to choose between getting paid or playing for a wining team. Ray Allen, Jamal Crawford, J.R. Smith, and Rashard Lewis are just some of the formerly well-compensated players that left money on the table to join contenders or hopefuls. Ginobili would get sizable offers of at least the full MLE on the open market, but Jackson would probably be fighting for a mini MLE or bi-annual exception or, as Kenyon Martin right now, holding out for anything more than the veteran's minimum. In the sense of lowering salaries for the middle class of NBA players, the lockout served its purpose. Unfortunately, it didn't prevent the rich from getting richer. Most players are flocking to big markets where there are other revenue streams for them to pursue. As far as improving competitive balance and helping small markets compete on a level playing field, the new CBA seems to be a failure (but that was never what the lockout was about, really). Fortunately, Manu and Jack seem very comfortable with the Spurs and, without some team throwing a lot of money at them, there is very little risk they do not return for cheap.
The Spurs should maintain their cap flexibility
Finally, the Spurs would be wise to see how this season shakes out before making unnecessary commitments for the future. Next season, the Spurs could maneuver into max salary cap space by renouncing their free agents. In the highly unlikely scenario that this season is a bust, Manu could retire and the Spurs could start over by refusing to re-sign any of their free agents. A much more likely scenario has the Spurs being in the mix as contenders, but not as favorites. Jackson's expiring contract could net them the missing piece they need, but that asset is gone if Jack gets his wish. If no move is made, after this upcoming season the Spurs will get to decide who they want to move forward with. If Manu signs for a small amount of money, the Spurs could renounce the rights to Neal, Splitter, Blair and Jackson, buy out Matt Bonner and create max-level cap room to bring someone in. Maintaining flexibility is one of the best things the Spurs can do, and they know it.
While we, or at least I, would feel much better knowing that Jack and especially Manu are locked up for next season, it just makes no sense for the Spurs to extend their contracts before they expire. This does not mean PATFO is thinking of moving on without them; it only means the new rules and the current situation dictate that the best course of action is to wait until the off-season. Hopefully, Manu and Jack know this and don't let their respective contract situations become a distraction.